The Ideal Man (Buchanan-Renard 9)

Page 2

Someone shouted a command. Then one of the FBI agents who had run into the trees appeared and headed straight for the pair. The woman let go of the man and began to run as he slowed and pulled something from his coat pocket. When he whirled around to face the agent shouting at him, Ellie saw the gun. Before she could react, he’d fired two shots. The first bullet struck the man in pursuit, the force so great it knocked him back before he crashed to the ground. The second bullet went wild. As Ellie dived to the grass, the shooter spun around and pointed the gun toward her. He didn’t pull the trigger but instead ran to the street and jumped into a car that sped away.
The ambulance had just turned around to go in the direction the boys were pointing, but when the gunshots were fired, it changed course. Sirens on, the ambulance crossed over the curb and swerved to miss the hospital emergency entrance sign. It bounded across the park toward the gunshot victim, weaving in and out of the crowd that was scrambling toward the boulevard.
Ellie jumped to her feet and ran after it. Her mind was racing. Who were the surgeons on call tonight? Edmonds and Walmer, she remembered, and she’d seen both of them in the hospital. Good.
The target had been a good distance away from the shooter, but he’d taken a direct hit to the torso. Ellie had no idea how bad the wound was, but she thought, if she could stabilize him, he’d make it to the OR.
The ambulance crossed the grassy area of the park in no time and stopped a few feet away from the downed man. Two paramedics leapt to the ground. Ellie recognized them: Mary Lynn Scott and Russell Probst. Russell opened the back doors and pulled out the gurney while Mary Lynn reached for the large orange trauma bag and rushed forward, sliding to her knees beside the victim. By the time Ellie reached the scene, four armed agents had surrounded him. One knelt on the ground talking to the man, trying to keep him calm, while three others stood over him.
The tallest of the three agents who were standing blocked her view. He barely glanced at her as he brusquely ordered, “You don’t need to see this. Go back to your soccer game.”
Go back to your game? Was he serious? Ellie was about to protest when one of the paramedics looked up, spotted her, and shouted, “Oh thank God. Dr. Sullivan.”
The agents looked at her skeptically and then slowly moved out of her way so that she could get past. Mary Lynn tossed her a pair of gloves, and Ellie pulled them on as she knelt down beside the man to assess the injury. Blood saturated the man’s shirt. She gently lifted the compress Mary Lynn had pressed to his shoulder, saw the damage, and immediately sought to stem the bleeding. While she gave orders to Russell and Mary Lynn, she kept her voice steady. The patient was conscious, and she didn’t want him to panic.
“How bad is it?” he asked.
She made it a point never to lie to a patient. That didn’t mean she had to be brutally honest, however. “It’s bad, but I’ve seen worse, much worse.”
Russell handed her a clamp, and she found the source of the bleeding. The bullet hadn’t gone through but had made quite an entrance.
Once Mary Lynn had gotten the IV line in, Ellie nodded to her to begin the drip.
“What’s your name?” she asked as she began packing the wound.
“Sean . . . Sean . . . ah, hell, I can’t remember my last name.” His eyelids began to flutter as he struggled to stay conscious.
The agent kneeling beside him said, “Goodman.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Sean said, his voice growing weaker.
“Can you remember if you’re allergic to anything?” Mary Lynn asked.
“Just bullets.” Sean stared at Ellie through half-closed eyes. “Are you a doctor?”
“Yes,” she said, flashing a reassuring smile. She finished packing the wound and leaned back on her heels.
“Dr. Sullivan’s a trauma surgeon,” Russell explained. “If you had to get shot, she’s the one you want operating on you. She’s the best there is.”
“Okay, he’s stable. You can take him,” Ellie said as she peeled off her gloves and dropped them in the plastic container Mary Lynn opened for her.
Sean suddenly grabbed her arm, his grip surprisingly strong. “Wait . . .”
“I want to marry Sara. Am I going to see her again?”
She leaned over him. “Yes, you will,” she said. “But first you’re going into the OR to get that bullet out. Now sleep. It’s all good. The surgeon will take care of you.”
“Who’s on tonight?” Russell asked.
“Edmonds and Walmer,” Mary Lynn answered.
Sean tightened his hold on Ellie’s arm. “I want you.” He didn’t give her time to respond but held tight and forced himself to stay awake as he repeated, “He said you’re the best. I want you to operate.”
She put her hand on top of his and nodded. “Okay,” she said. “Okay, I’ll do it.”
She stood and stepped back to get out of the way so that the paramedics could put Sean into the ambulance but was stopped by something solid. It felt as though she’d just backed into a slab of granite. The agent who had told her to go back to her soccer game was blocking her exit with his warm, hard chest. He put his hands on her shoulders to steady her, then let go. When he still didn’t get out of her way, she stood her ground pressed against him.
“Dr. Sullivan, do you want to ride with us?” Russell called out.
“No, go ahead. He’s stable now.”
Russell swung the doors shut, jumped into the driver’s seat, and the ambulance was on its way.
Ellie turned to the agent who had been kneeling with Sean. “Was anyone else hurt?”
The granite wall behind her answered. “Not hurt, dead.” He was very matter-of-fact.
“They weren’t ours,” another agent explained. “They were wanted men.”
She turned around and came face to shoulders with the most intimidating man she’d ever seen, and that was saying something considering the monster chief of surgery she worked under. This man didn’t look anything like him, though. The agent was tall, dark, and scary, with thick black hair and penetrating, steely gray eyes. His firm, square jaw was covered with at least one day’s growth of beard, maybe two. He looked as though he hadn’t slept in at least twenty-four hours, a look she knew all too well.
Ellie’s heart skipped a beat. The man could scare the quills off a porcupine. But, oh God, was he sexy! Ellie gave herself a mental slap. An intimidating man who was built like a monument and could melt iron with his menacing glare—this was what she was attracted to?
The agent who had been kneeling stepped forward and put out his hand. “I’m Agent Tom Bradley. Sean Goodman’s my partner.” He introduced her to the two agents on his left and then to the man in front of her. “Agent Max Daniels.”
She nodded. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to get to the OR.” She didn’t wait for permission, but turned and ran back to the hospital.
Thirty minutes later she was dropping the bullet she’d retrieved from Sean’s shoulder into a small metal pan. “Bag it and get it to one of the agents waiting outside. You know the drill.”
Then the real work of repairing the damage began. Ellie had learned over the years that there was no such thing as a simple bullet wound. Bullets had a way of doing considerable damage before settling, but Agent Goodman was lucky. His bullet hadn’t penetrated any major organs or nerves.
Once she’d closed, she followed the patient to recovery, wrote orders, and went to talk to the crowd gathered in the surgical waiting room. A dozen people with worried faces sat waiting for the news. Agent Daniels was standing, leaning against the wall with his arms across his chest. His gaze followed her as she entered the room, and her heart began to race. She knew she looked a mess. She pulled off her cap and threaded her fingers through her hair. Why in heaven’s name she wanted to look good for him was beyond her comprehension, and yet she did.
“The surgeon’s here,” Daniels announced.
A petite young woman jumped up and rushed forward,
followed by Agent Bradley and a crowd of worried relatives.
“The surgery went well,” she began and then explained some of what she had repaired, trying not to be too technical. “I expect him to make a full recovery.”
Sara, his fiancée, was crying as she stammered her thank-you. She shook Ellie’s hand and held on to it.
“You can see him in about an hour,” Ellie told her. “He’s heavily sedated and he’s not going to know you’re there,” she warned. “He’ll be in recovery for a while, then they’ll take him to ICU. Once the nurses in ICU have him settled, they’ll send someone to get you. Any questions?”
A frazzled-looking nurse appeared in the doorway. “Dr. Sullivan?”
“Would you mind looking at Mrs. Klein for us? She’s Edmonds’s patient, but he’s in surgery.”
“I’ll be right there.”
She patted Sara’s hand and pulled free. “All right then. It’s all good.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Agent Daniels smile as she turned to leave. She walked down the corridor and had just turned the corner when he caught up with her.
“Hey, Doctor.”
She turned around. Her stupid heart went into overdrive again. “Yes?”
“We’re going to need to talk to you about the shooting. You’ll have to give a statement.”
“How about after you check on that patient?”
She couldn’t resist. “Gee, I don’t know. I hate to miss soccer practice.”
She was laughing as she pushed the doors aside and disappeared into ICU.
Max Daniels stood there staring after her, a slight grin crossing his face.
“Damn,” he whispered. “Damn.”
Agent Daniels waited for her in the hallway just outside the ICU doors. He was leaning with his back to the wall, one ankle crossed over the other, looking half asleep and thoroughly relaxed.
Ellie was impressed. It had taken her years of sleep deprivation to perfect the art of falling asleep on her feet. Never during surgery, of course—that was definitely frowned upon—but in between emergencies when she knew she had only a couple of minutes before she was paged again. Five minutes here, ten minutes there—it seemed to be enough to keep her refreshed and alert. She still didn’t know how to relax, though, no matter how hard she tried. Daniels made it look easy.
Ellie was pleased she hadn’t kept him waiting long. All she’d had to do for Mrs. Klein was adjust her medications. Mr. Klein was the real concern. Ellie had to once again order him to keep his hands off his wife’s tubes and IVs and to stop trying to wake her up. The stubborn man couldn’t quite grasp the notion of a medically induced coma, but he did understand that he would be banned from the ICU if he didn’t behave himself. Janet Newman, the head nurse, was convinced Mr. Klein was attempting to kill his wife and blame it on the hospital. Janet pointed out that Mrs. Klein was twenty-nine years older than her husband, way too old to be considered a cougar, and she was also extremely wealthy. It was obvious to the nurse that the sneaky bastard—Janet’s name for Mr. Klein—had married the poor woman for her fortune only.
Although Ellie didn’t believe Mr. Klein wanted to harm his wife, she gave Janet new instructions: If there was another incident with the tubes, she was to call security and have Mr. Klein removed from the floor.
Dealing with the families took compassion, patience, and understanding; and on days like today, after working such a long shift, Ellie ran low on all three. It had been a grueling week with double shifts and very little sleep. She wondered if she looked as tired as she felt. The interview with the agent shouldn’t take long, she thought, and then she could go home, take a hot shower, and fall into bed. That lovely thought made her sigh. Earlier, she had grabbed a few minutes to take a quick shower in the doctors’ quarters, but it wasn’t at all the same as showering in her own bathroom with her own apricot-scented shampoo, her body lotions, and her soft towels. She couldn’t wait to get home.
Ellie should have known she wouldn’t get out of the hospital that easily.
As she walked toward the agent, she said, “That didn’t take any time at all, did it, Agent Daniels?”
“No, it didn’t take long,” he agreed. “Call me Max,” he added.
She smiled. “And you may call me Ellie.”
She had almost reached him when the ancient intercom crackled to life. “Dr. Blue to ICU. Dr. Blue to ICU.” The summons was the not-too-subtle code for a patient crashing, a code blue. Everyone in the hospital knew what it meant, including every patient over the age of ten, but the administrator refused to give the code a different name.
Ellie stopped abruptly, took a deep breath, then turned to go back into the ICU.
She called over her shoulder, “Agent Daniels . . . I mean, Max . . . if you want, you could leave your number with reception, and I’ll get hold of you just as soon as I’m finished here.”
If he replied, she didn’t hear him because the doors were closing behind her as she ran to the patient in trouble.
This time she was gone a little longer, but not much, just fifteen minutes, and when she once again stepped out into the hallway, she was surprised to see that Max was still there waiting for her. He was talking on his cell phone, but the second he spotted her, he ended the call and headed toward her.
It suddenly occurred to Ellie that the agent might be worried that his friend had been the patient who coded, and she hurried to reassure him.
“The code wasn’t for Agent Goodman.”
“Yeah, I know. I asked one of the nurses to go in and find out.”
She nodded. “I just checked on him. He’s resting comfortably.”
“That’s good,” he replied. “The code?” he asked, curious. “How did that turn out?”
“The patient’s back with us, so it’s all good.”
He smiled, and Ellie felt a flutter in her chest. How could anyone that tough looking have such a devastating smile? He was an imposing figure, tall and broad shouldered, with huge biceps and a wide chest that appeared to be all muscle. His jaw was hidden beneath a scruffy beard, but the slight dimple creasing his cheek was still noticeable. His thick hair needed a trim, and he looked as though he’d been to battle and back. There really wasn’t anything “pretty boy” about him, nothing remotely gorgeous like Dr. Andrews; yet, cleaned up, this man had the potential to be a real heartthrob. But not for her. Been there. Almost done that.
Ellie forced herself to concentrate on the reason he was here, the shooting. She needed to explain that, if he wanted to question her, they would have to find someplace outside the hospital. As long as she was on the premises, the nurses and doctors would continue to page her. And the two older surgeons on call tonight would be happy to let her do their job while they watched ESPN in the doctors’ lounge.
“I’ve got to get out of here,” she began. “Otherwise, the interruptions . . . oh no.” She groaned the last words. “Great,” she whispered. “Just great.”
Max turned to see a tall, round-shouldered man with a giant forehead and very little hair come barreling toward Ellie with a glare plastered on his face.
“Who is he?” he asked quietly. He could have sworn he heard her whisper, “A dinosaur.”
The man marching toward them was a doctor, an uptight one at that. He wore an immaculate white coat with a stethoscope dangling from one of the pockets. Pale blue, long-sleeved shirt, bold striped tie, black pants with perfect creases, and tasseled loafers that looked new—he was impeccably dressed. Max wondered if the man’s personality was as starched as his appearance.
Dr. Brent Westfield was the chief of surgery at St. Vincent’s. He had just rounded the corner. Spotting Ellie, he barked, “What are you doing here, Prod? Aren’t you off this weekend? Of course you are. Do I have to remind you that, as of two weeks ago, we are all following new guidelines? No exceptions. You know that.” He glanced at his Gucci sports watch and added, “You
should have signed out two hours ago.”
New guidelines. Right. Exasperated, Ellie simply nodded. It was true. According to the new hospital policy, residents and fellows could be on duty only a certain number of hours in a twenty-four-hour day; but there was a big loophole, one little phrase in the guidelines that made them useless: unless there was an emergency. And funny thing, there was always an emergency. Ellie was certain the contingency was just a clever way for the hospital to appear to be following the guidelines while working the residents until they were dead on their feet. In reality, the new guidelines weren’t that different from the old ones, and Westfield knew it. He was just in the mood to hassle her, she decided, probably because he was irritated that she hadn’t signed a contract to stay with the hospital . . . at least not yet. She was still contemplating where she wanted to live and what she wanted to do—trauma center or general surgery. And she also had to take into account Evan Patterson. Where was he hiding? How could she make a decision without knowing where he was? Ellie was so tired now, nothing sounded good to her, but she knew she would have to make her decision soon because, even with all the scholarships and grants she had received, she owed a little over two hundred thousand.
“Do you want me to get in trouble with the board?” he demanded.
Was he kidding? The board of directors loved him. It was such a bogus question, she didn’t bother to answer.
Westfield abruptly turned to Max. “And who is this?”
Ellie knew he had noticed the FBI badge hooked to the left side of Max’s belt and the gun holstered on the opposite side, but she didn’t comment on it or mention that Max’s navy blue T-shirt had big yellow FBI letters conspicuously printed across the back. Instead, she quickly made the introductions, and the two men shook hands. The chief had always been a commanding figure to Ellie because of his position of power, his aggressive tactics, and most important, his skill in the operating room, but standing next to the FBI agent who towered over him, Westfield suddenly didn’t seem so intimidating. Max was more imposing. The agent radiated strength and confidence. She strongly doubted he was as contentious as the chief, though.